Reptiles ‹‹ Go Back

Common Name : Star Tortoise     -       Scientific Name : Geochelone elegans       -       Other Name : Tharaka Ibba, Mevara Ibba (S)
Thammnanna Wala Glade
Kudiramali Point

This beautiful land tortoise is an inhabitant of the dry lowlands of the country. It is also native to North-western and Southern India and East Pakistan.

The conservation status of this species is regarded as Near Threatened (National Red List 2012).

The Star Tortoise is a species which is strictly protected under schedule II of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance as amended by Act No. 22 of 2009.

This is a species found in the dry and arid lowland parts of the country and never found in the wet zone or hilly areas. The highest altitude at which I have seen this species is at the Victoria- Randenigala- Rantambe Sanctuary at an altitude of 320 meters. In the North I have seen it at Mannar, Pooneryn and Chettikulam. They are common in all the dry zone national parks and even in areas outside protected areas. These interesting tortoises are threatened due to the international pet trade.

The males are smaller than the females and have a concave underside to enable them to mount the female during mating. Males also have a longer tail. As a child I have kept a few of these tortoises as pets but released them to the wild upon realizing that they are a protected species. The egg laying process is quite interesting where the female, having selected a suitable location will dig a pit with a small opening, with her hind legs. She will urinate at least three times during the process to make the earth softer. Thereafter, 5-6 ping-pong ball sized, hard shelled eggs are deposited into the pit which will thereafter be closed so well by the tortoise that it is hard to locate. Incubation is about 60-90 days and the tiny wrist watch’ sized tortoises will emerge with the center of their undersides quite tender and fleshy where the shell is yet to develop. They are quite vulnerable during this time to attacks by ants. However the underside shell forms to cover this spot in two to three days.

In Wilpattu this species is usually not found in the dense forest areas but is more common close to the forest edges. I have seen them on a number of occasions between the park entrance and Percy Bendi Wewa. They are found in fields and home gardens just outside the park as well.